Towards a Digital History of the Spanish Invasion of Indigenous Peru / Hacia una historia digital de la invasión española del Perú indígena

Jeremy M. Mikecz (, University of Southern California, United States of America

What role did indigenous activity play in shaping the events of ‘conquest’? How can digital tools aid in the reconstruction of this activity? These are the core questions driving my research on the Spanish invasion of Peru.

My research experiments with the use of digital methods to assist in the rewriting of indigenous history during the early period of European invasion. In this poster, I will introduce some of these digital methods – particularly the use of data and geo-visualizations to a) identify gaps and silences in colonial sources, and b) to fill in some of those gaps with information recovered from indigenous sources.

These methods draw on diverse inspirations. In reconstructing the hidden geography or spatiality of historical texts, it follows literary geographers’ recent innovative mapping of fictional sources.(Cooper et al., 2016; Cooper and Gregory, 2011; Moretti, 1998) In visualizing and recognizing patterns within these sources through the creation of a wide variety of data visualizations, it draws on work ranging from nineteenth-century information graphics to twenty-first-century data science. Finally, it also finds inspiration in pioneering work in Historical GIS, spatial history, and qualitative and even indigenous cartography.(Eltis and Richardson, 2015; Knowles et al., 2014; For indigenous cartography, see the work of Margaret Wickens Pearce, including: Pearce and Hermann, 2010)

The role of geography and indigenous activity in European invasions of the indigenous Americas – first elided or erased by colonial authors – has remained largely overlooked by modern scholars. In Inka Peru, Spanish conquistadors encountered a complex imperial infrastructure and labor system that mitigated much of the geographic challenges of an invasion of the Andes. Native guides showed them the way, native informants advised them on potential obstacles to their journey, native allies offered military and political support, native messengers relayed information between the Spanish and their allies, native porters carried their supplies, and native villagers provided them with lodging and support.

While recent work – especially increased use of indigenous sources – has begun to reconstruct some of this activity(Matthew and Oudijk, 2007), I propose a new methodology to more fully reconstruct indigenous geography and activity and to present an alternate vision of the invasion of Peru. This is accomplished in two steps. First, I use digital text analysis methods to examine how colonial sources hid or erased indigenous activity. Second, I use geovisualizations to reconstruct indigenous activity in conquest-era events as it played out across space and time. This reconstruction of indigenous activity draws on a diverse range of indigenous sources. These include: 1) indigenous polities’ petitions to the Crown documenting the service they provided the conquistadors during the invasion, 2) cacicazgo cases which document an indigenous group’s history (for disputes over hereditary succession to leadership positions) and often include some references to the conquest era, and 3) the trial testimony of indigenous witnesses describing their experiences during the period.

This reconstruction and mapping of indigenous activity will be the focus of this poster. I will provide examples of four types of data and geo-visualizations I use to reconstruct this indigenous activity. These include:

  1. Geographic Knowledge Maps: Mapping the geographic extents (and limits) of European knowledge of the Americas– places known and unknown – makes clear just how limited their knowledge and, by extension, their power was.
  2. Mood Maps: First created by literary geographers, mood maps allow the mapping of an author’s subjective experiences of a landscape.
  3. Density Plot of Events: Graphing the density and range of events described in historical literature allows the comparison and contrast of how the story of the conquest of Peru has changed over time.
  4. Indigenous Activity Maps, which trace the often hidden role of indigenous actors in conquest events.

Appendix A

  1. Cooper, D., Donaldson, C., Murrieta-Flores, P. (Eds.), 2016. Literary Mapping in the Digital Age, New edition edition. ed. Routledge, Farnham, Surrey, England ; Burlington, VT.
  2. Cooper, D., Gregory, I.N., 2011. Mapping the English Lake district: A literary GIS. Trans. Inst. Br. Geogr. 36, 89–108.
  3. Eltis, D., Richardson, D., 2015. Atlas of the transatlantic slave trade. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
  4. Knowles, A.K., Cole, T., Giordano, A., 2014. Geographies of the Holocaust. Indiana University Press.
  5. Matthew, L.E., Oudijk, M.R., 2007. Indian conquistadors : indigenous allies in the conquest of Mesoamerica. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
  6. Moretti, F., 1998. Atlas of the European novel, 1800-1900. Verso, London; New York.
  7. Pearce, M.W., Hermann, M.J., 2010. Mapping Champlain’s Travels: Restorative Techniques for Historical Cartography. Cartogr. Int. J. Geogr. Inf. Geovisualization.